Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
by Julie Berry

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 351
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: September 23, 2014
Suggested tags: middle grade, historical fiction, 19th century, England

From Goodreads:
"There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings."

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place called to me as soon as I discovered it on Goodreads. It's described as a "rollicking farce" and a "Victorian romp" with "plot twists," "mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings," all commencing with the seven girls at St. Etheldreda's boarding school discovering that their headmistress and her brother have been "most inconveniently poisoned." Hello, charming synopsis, please do add my name to the list of dear readers who just fell in love with you.

The seven girls -  Smooth Kitty, Stout Alice, Dour Elinor, Dear Roberta, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Dull Martha, and Pocked Louise - realize that if their headmistress's murder is discovered, they will all be sent home. And they simply cannot allow that to happen. So, naturally, they hide the bodies and cover up the deaths, going so far as to impersonate their headmistress in order to convince the town that she is still alive and well. I loved it - they have to take their deceptions to such a ridiculous level, you just know it's all going to fall apart spectacularly. And the mystery of the poisoner's identity is there throughout it all, as the girls try to figure out who actually did murder their headmistress, because it couldn't have been one of them... could it?

There were some side stories I enjoyed also, such as poor young Julian, Martha and the neighbor boy, Alice's struggle over playing their headmistress when the young man of her affections was present... However, when each girl began to get paired up with a boy, I found myself losing a little interest. Do they all really need a love match? I thought we were doing fine with the girls themselves, and the two or three genuine budding romances. I felt like the other boys were kind of shoehorned in there, when the sisterhood was doing just fine without them. But that's just me, and it's quite a minor nitpick.

The reveal of the poisoner and the subsequent chapters detailing what will happen to the girls and the school now that the headmistress is gone really made the book for me. I devoured those pages - I just couldn't read fast enough to see how it would all turn out. I've seen a few reviews saying this might be a bit morbid for young readers - and I suppose I could agree with that, if said young readers are uncomfortable with death or hiding/burying bodies. However, I remember being fascinated with darker things like death and ghosts and such when I was younger, so I think I would have enjoyed this one just as much then as I did now. (Although, older "now" me probably appreciated the Victorian farce side of it more than younger me would have.)

Overall, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place left me charmed, delighted, and scouring the internet to find out if this is the start of a series. Oh, how I would love to see these seven young ladies again!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

{ The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place book trailer }

{ Favorite quotes from The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place }
      'A toast,' Smooth Kitty cried, feeling almost giddy, 'to self-government. Saint Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies will be run by young ladies from this point forward. Hear, hear!' Great applause.
     'To independence!' added Pocked Louise. 'No fussy old widows telling us when not to speak, and how to set the spoons when an Earl's niece comes to supper. And telling us to leave scientific experiment to the men.' Teacup toasts in support of Louise.
     'To freedom!' chimed in Disgraceful Mary Jane. 'No curfews and evil eyes and lectures on morals and propriety.' Loud, if nervous, cheering.
     'To womankind,' proclaimed Stout Alice. 'Each of us girls free to be what she wishes to be, without glum and crotchety Placketts trying to make us into what we're not.' Tremendous excitement.
     'To sisterhood,' said Dear Roberta, and standing by each other, no matter what.'

{ More about Julie Berry }

Julie Berry's Goodreads profile
Julie Berry's website
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